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Is Taurine Deficiency causing heart Disease including HCM (Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy)?

Anthea Appel, an Animal Naturpath, who writes the “Cats & Dogs Naturally” blog writes about her experiences. “Earlier this year, I’ve had a couple of clients who came to me with cats suffering from Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), which is a heart disease that causes the thickening of the heart. And, what I found interesting was that both these cats were fed the same brand of a “holistic,” processed cat food; (how can processed food be holistic? To me, this was a Red Flag. {that the food is suspect to be deficient in taurine}

Most veterinarians will tell you the cause of HCM is unknown, or that some breeds are predisposed to HCM. But I feel nutrigenomics should be taken into consideration. Nutrigenomics is the study of the effects of foods and food constituents on gene expression. I suspected that this particular brand of cat food may have been deficient in taurine.
Nonetheless, this reminds me of a story: In 1988, a cardiology veterinary student noticed that one of his feline patients he was treating for congestive cardiomyopathy had extremely low blood serum of taurine. Now, this cat was fed one of the so-called best “high quality” “premium” commercial cat foods’ which according to its label contained all the daily requirement of taurine. This puzzled the veterinarian, so he went back to check other clinical cases of feline congestive cardiomyopathy. And to his amazement, he discovered that virtually all of the cases of this disease had low taurine levels in their blood. When the cats were given a taurine supplement many of them showed a dramatic improvement. 

How can my cat acquire Taurine Deficiency if I am feeding a commercial cat food which is AAFCO approved to meet the taurine requirements?
Well, the answer to this lies within the system. The amount of taurine required in pet foods is only the minimum amount needed so that the animal does not die or suffer apparent health conditions. The first thing wrong with that is that we should be aiming for food quality that does not just keep the pets alive but makes them Thrive! The second issue is that pet food manufacturers’ “feeding trials;” only last about 6 months. So, if the animal is still alive and appears to be healthy after 6 months then the pet food is approved to sell to the public. However, it takes longer than 6 months to see the effects of a taurine deficiency in a cat; they could maintain health with no serious side effects for several years until one day out of the blue they are showing symptoms of heart disease. Or sadly what is often the case with HCM (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) is they will die suddenly.How does this relate to the Sphynx Cat & other Hairless Breeds?

The need for more taurine (along with many other nutrients), above the minimum requirements set by the AAFCO could not be more true for the hairless breeds of cats because of their unique metabolic systems. Most people, who know the breed, know that due to their lack of fur they require more energy than a typical furred breed of cat; and that energy comes in the form of food. Any Sphynx owner can attest that they eat at least twice as much as other cats that they either currently own or have previously owned. However, with this knowledge most people do not look deeper into what this actually means, and asking why they are eating more than the average cat?

Hairless cats eat more food, and need more energy, because they expel more energy. This increased energy expulsion (loss) is due to their precious body-heat freely leaving due to the lack of fur. This increased loss of energy requires more calories to meet the extra energy demands. However beyond the increase in calories, they also require an increase in all of the nutrients; including minerals, vitamins, and amino acids like taurine to sustain their high need for energy. When we really gain the appreciation for the already known fact that the hairless breeds increased energy requirements, it is all very clear and easy to see the connection to the breeds increased need for taurine. This consideration really helps drive it home, when you also consider the fact that the body systems which require the MOST amount of energy are, the Brain, and the HEART! Energy, which is derived directly from nutrients like Taurine of course!

Why HCM rates in the Hairless Cat Breeds is so high; putting it all together…
So now that we have all of the information laid out in front of us, I feel it is very clear to see the huge connection between diet, specifically taurine, and heart disease in cats. This can be true for all breeds of cats, but especially in the hairless breeds which are unfortunately known for their severely high incidence rates of HCM. It is all very simple really; hairless cats require more energy, the heart muscle requires more energy than any other organ, the heart makes energy from taurine, taurine must be acquired from diet, diets consisting of only the minimum amounts of taurine are leading to deficiencies and heart disease in the hairless cat breeds.

What if my cat is diagnosed with HCM or another form of heart disease?
I would be highly suspicious that your cat may be suffering from a taurine deficiency if they are diagnosed with any type of heart disease. The first thing I would do is asses your cats current diet and consider switching to a higher quality diet which will naturally provide more of the critical amino acids like the taurine your cat needs for optimal health. No matter what the diagnosis, or what your veterinarian/specialist are saying, it is never too late to get your cat on a heart-healthy diet NOW! Many veterinarians are vastly undereducated in nutrition and understanding the biological impacts of nutrition on the body systems. Not to imply any blame, it just simply is not taught in any depth in veterinary school. I do advise however if you are going to switch your cats diet, especially if they are currently ill with a heart health problem, be sure that you have researched how to properly and slowly switch your cats diet so as to avoid additional stress to their bodies.

I would also highly suggest that you discuss with your veterinarian or cardiac specialist the impact of taurine on your cat’s health, and ask for a taurine level test to be performed on your cat. Although not very well utilized, there are labs which offer taurine level analysis in the veterinary field. All your vet’s office need do is to locate an appropriate lab to send the sample out to be tested; which can be done right along any other routine blood work check up on your cat. It is theorized that even on a good quality diet, some cats, particularly some specialized breeds of cats do require more than the average or certainly minimum intakes of taurine in their diets to maintain a health promoting level within their body systems. Be your cat’s health advocate, as they rely 100% on you to make the best decisions for their lives and health.
I feel strongly that so many beautiful cats, and specifically the hairless cat breeds, are suffering and dying every day due to the low standards in the commercial pet food industry. However there is a simple solution to helping prevent many cases of heart disease; simply feeding our cats a balanced species appropriate diet that they were made for. A raw balanced died is the best choice but, if you are not able to feed raw, at the least add powdered taurine to their current food that you are feeding. You can purchase this on under the name of Felo Taurine
Not a bad idea to add RAW chicken hearts to your cats diet, as they are very high in taurine

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